Sometimes it seems to me that there are people in the world whose lives run without incident – I don’t mean they have no drama in their existence – we all have the odd bout of personal excitement – births, marriages, deaths etc; I’m talking more about the kind of day in which you set out to achieve something entirely mundane and life pulls the rug in a most unexpected way.
This happened recently when I went to collect my mum to come and stay with us for a few days. Now mama is currently aged 86¾ and very lively with it. She lives alone, still drives (gasp – but only within a very small radius of home) and generally copes well with life. However, she is 86¾ after all and much more infirm than, say er, me for example.
So....we joined the motorway on the way home and, within a few hundred yards, it became obvious that there was something very wrong with the car. After a very few more yards it was akin to driving a bucking bronco and I had to stop. Fortunately, as we had only just joined the motorway, I was still in the slow lane. Unfortunately, as we had only just joined the motorway, we were still on a stretch that had no hard shoulder. Fantastic!
I should have mentioned that mama is extremely deaf and a noisy environment simply interferes with her hearing aids making communication nigh on impossible. I realised that I had more than likely had a blow out but decided to err on the side of least drama (Mama is dramatic enough at the best of times) so I yelled “I’ve had a puncture,” to which she bellowed “You’re at a juncture?” rendering me nigh on hysterical.
Anyway, she hopped gamely out of the car and we trotted up the edge of the slow lane until we could reach a crash barrier a little further up and stand behind it. I thought the best thing to do was call the police as the car was presenting a considerable hazard, abandoned as it was in the slow lane. There have been many occasions in my life that I have had to talk to the emergency services – one of the most memorable was when TS (aged 2) was playing with the phone and I suddenly realised he was actually talking to someone. “No,” he said, “no mummy.” “Oh shit,” I thought and grabbed the receiver off him. I got a very frosty reception from the lady on the other end of the phone who gave me a lecture on wasting her precious time and said that they had been within a few seconds of sending the police round to make sure he was not left alone...ahem.
Anyway the nice police officer on the phone assured me that they would be along soon and that we should stay as far back from the road as possible (yup, right, you try that when you have two inches of tarmac to stand on before you hit a bank of nettles). “Can you move the car further up?” he asked. I was tempted by sarcasm (as ever) “well yes, I could, but I thought it would be more fun for everyone if I just left it in the middle of the sodding motorway” but decided against it.
The noise was incredible, as was the stupidity of the remaining drivers on the road. The number of people who seemed unable to spot a silver car with its hazards on, stationary in the road was extraordinary. They zoomed up behind it, slammed on their brakes and pulled sharply out into the middle lane. Then the pillock in the middle lane wouldn’t pull over (I Got Here First syndrome) so the two of them would jockey dangerously for position, meanwhile gawping at us, huddled together a few yards further up. This is what they were avoiding:-
Pretty spectacular, huh?
I was terrified, not least for my mum. Mama however, was absolutely thrilled. “What an adventure!” she cried, tottering out into the slow lane, the better to crane her neck and spy the rozzers. I continuously had to pull her back – it was like having a toddler likely to make a dash out into the traffic at any moment and just as stressful. Eventually, the rozzers whizzed past going in the wrong direction, but waving comfortingly. It seemed to take them bloody ages to find a junction where they could turn round and come back again, but arrive they eventually did. Charming and young (argh – did you read that? Policemen are looking young to me now!) They offered to change the wheel but, hey, guess what? Despite several imploring phone calls to the Shah and his assurances that there was definitely a wheel brace in the boot, wheel brace was there none. So the rozzers (these were real police, as opposed to the Traffic Police who turned up shortly after – talk about overkill) kindly arranged for us to be “recovered”. A large lorry turned up and hoisted my poor jalopy onto the back. We hauled and pushed mama up into the cab - “whee!” she roared – and took off.
To cut a long and immensely tedious story short, a journey that should have taken an hour took 5 and cost me £200 (“No VAT tho’ love, because the police called me out, so they pay the VAT” - small comfort). Luckily my mama is as generous as she is adventurous and insisted on paying half on the grounds that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been collecting her. Could still have done without it though!